Fasting for Lent was the motive that drove me to talk to you about this pattern of eating: the intermittent fasting. However, these two are not related at all. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the intermittent fasting…Do you know what it is and if it is beneficial to our health or is it just another diet trend that helps you lose weight? I’m sure that you have heard a lot about it too –you may have even tried it– and now you’re probably wondering if it really does all that it promises. It is actually not a diet, but a pattern of eating periods and fasting periods. More specifically, this eating pattern promotes fasting for defined hours within the day or a limited caloric intake for specific days within the week. However, in this case too, following a generally balanced eating plan is necessary for the best possible results.
Some of the main benefits that it promises to have are weight loss (and specifically fat loss), improved health, and longevity. The supporters of this diet actually think that it can be followed very easily, since it is simply a process of eating specific hours and not specific foods or dishes. But, can somebody consume whatever he wants during the eating period and still be healthy? Is this way of eating balanced? Does it suit everyone or is it just another express diet that we’d better not follow for long?
Firstly, let’s take a look at the alternatives…
Such a “diet” can be followed in several different ways and it can be adjusted according to each person’s individual needs and everyday life. I think this is one of the main reasons why so many people are excited about it! So, there are the following ways:
1. Fasting for 12 or 16 hours.
2. Fasting for a whole day – 24 hours (yes, that is actually an option!).
3. 5:2 eating-fasting pattern, that is 2 days of limited caloric intake and 5 days of balanced caloric intake.
4. Fasting every 2nd day, so one day we eat in a balanced way and the next day, we limit our caloric intake significantly.
5. Simply skipping one meal a day. Technically, you eat only when you are truly hungry and you skip the meals where the feeling of hunger is not that intense; so, you can have your own eating schedule based on your needs.
As I mentioned above, we should follow a balanced meal plan during the non-fasting days. The main disadvantage of the intermittent fasting is that many people who decide to follow it, consume any kind of food that they like and so, they often choose unhealthy foods. In that way, people consume too many calories, a lot of saturated fats, sugars, and salt due to their unhealthy food choices. I think I have stressed out the advantages of following a balanced eating plan many times before, and they all apply to this case too! Moreover, keep in mind that such eating patterns are definitely not recommended to specific populations that have to follow balanced meal plans on a daily basis and snack often. Such populations are pregnant women, kids, but also people with a specific health problem.
Shall we take a look at the benefits of the intermittent fasting in detail?
According to many different studies that have been carried out for the specific eating pattern and its alternatives, the main benefits of this diet are:
1. Weight loss and loss of visceral fat.
2. Increased good cholesterol (HDL) and decreased total and bad cholesterol (LDL).
3. Preventing from obesity and diseases related to it, and from chronic diseases in general, such as cardiovascular ones and type 2 diabetes.
As I’ve already told you plenty of times, the proper thing to do is follow a balanced diet including small, frequent meals and healthy dishes. However, fasting periods seem to help specific cases and types of people as they have some benefits related to obesity and weight loss. If you decide to follow such an alternative eating pattern, do it only by consulting your doctor or nutritionist!
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.